On 9 September 1944 Field-Marshal Montgomery proposed
a plan, called Operation Market Garden, to secure a bridgegehead across the
Rhine. The operation called for a combined armor and airborne assault to seize
and hold key bridges and roads deep behind German lines in Holland. The airborne
phase of the operation consisted of capturing five bridges ahead of the armored
force. The 504th now back at full strength rejoined the 82nd, while the 507th
went to the 17th Airborne Division.
Men of I Company of the 504th PIR in England on 17 September 1944 before jumping into Holland. They are
(left to right) Kneeling: unidentified troopers;
Standing: 1/Sgt Odum, 2nd, 3rd & 4th troopers unidentified, Capt Delbert Kuehl,
Capt Moffatt Burriss and 7th, 8th & 9th troopers unidentified.)
(Note: If anyone can
identifiy the unknown troopers please contact me).
The 504th's mission was to capture two bridges across
the Maas-Waal Canal. The operation began on 17 September. The 504th quickly
secured one of the most important objectives, the nine-span bridge over the Maas
River, by hitting both ends simultaneously. (^^ Below right: the scene from the
movie "A Bridge Too Far" of the 3rd Battalion's assault across the Waal
On 20 September the
3rd Battalion of the 504th commanded by Major Julian Cook was order by Gen Gavin
to make an assault across the the Waal River and secure a crucial bridge. With
artillery support the first wave of the 504th assaulted, in twenty-six assault
boats, under intense fire, taking 200 casualties in the process. Finally on D+4
the 504th finally secured their hold on the bridge, fighting off another German
counterattack just before noon. It was in this skirmish that Pvt. John Towle won
the Medal of Honor.
The Regimental motto, "Strike Hold," had
never before been more forcefully demonstrated on the battlefield. The 504th,
tired yet determined, had gallantly kept its commitment to accomplish every
mission without ever relinquishing any ground it had once occupied.
Its success, however, was short-lived because of the
defeat of other Allied units at Arnhem. The gateway to Germany would not open in
September 1944, and the 82nd was ordered back to France.